Saturday, February 25, 2012

Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost, Too

I'm trying; I really am. I try to teach my kids right from wrong, good manners, kindness, forgiveness. To love their fellow human beings. But, I'm weak. I have my foibles, my weaknesses. One of these is, unfortunately, a bad temper.

Don't get me wrong: I don't beat my wife and kids. I don't go to the bar on a Friday night, get loaded, and punch everything in sight. (I used to be like that, years ago; that's why I no longer drink.) But I am easily offended. Worse yet, I hold a grudge. It's a family tradition. Back when I was still close to my parents and relatives, I used to joke to friends that the Coffman clan was so vengeful, the Mafia would tell them to chill out and let things go.

My father once got bad service in a department store not far from our home. In 25 years, he never shopped there again. Mind you, businesses were few and far between, and there weren't many choices. This place had low prices and decent staff, but one bad employee and he never set foot in the place again.

I'd like to think I'm better than the old man. In most ways, I believe this to be true. I don't abuse my kids, and I'm not afraid to tell them I love them or give them a hug. Until I moved out of my parents' home, I believed men simply never touched or embraced one another, except in movies. Even today, I'm still uncomfortable if someone who isn't a member of my close circle (which currently only includes my wife and kids) touches or embraces me in any way. I know it's a character flaw, but I'm working on it.

Anywho, back to the temper thing. Several weeks ago, my wife volunteered to help out at the local VFW with some baking project the retirees had going on. I was replacing damaged ceiling tiles for a few extra $$$, as we were kind of strapped for cash at the time. My work went well and received more than a fair amount of praise, which made me feel good. It wasn't until after that I found out that my Beloved did not receive the same welcome.

The kitchen was overfull, with more hands than work. Now, anyone who knows my Brenda knows she hates being idle and loves keeping busy. Enough so that it sometimes drive me nuts. Long story short, there wasn't anything for her or the other (only under-65) person there to do. So, they ended up discussing the town's upcoming plans to open a grocery store in between the infrequent requests for help. Our new hometown is over 20 minutes away from the closest grocery store, and their prices are outrageous. It's at least an hour drive to any decently-priced groceries.

The town council is looking for someone willing to open a store and run it, with a little financial help from the residents. My wife, having years of management experience running large and small accounts and businesses, had already offered to do this. Considering that most of the ladies working the VFW kitchen that day were either members of the council or wives of them, the conversation drew a fair bit of attention. Up until this day, we had received nothing but kudos for her ideas and plans, and a fair amount of encouragement.

Unfortunately, this was not to remain the case. Towards the end of the day, two of the women made disparaging remarks at my wife's expense, one of which I heard personally.

One of the women at this little shindig happened to be the mayor, and up until this time our biggest supporter in our endeavor. The other is a close neighbor who had helped us out when times were tough, and who I repaid as quickly as possible doing work around their property they were too old to perform themselves. I won't name them, of course, but they know who they are should they come across my blog. Well, the mayor, whom I overheard, commented to another old biddie smug tightass woman this about my wife: "Well, just because she has a college degree doesn't mean she understands anything." Our neighbor later made the comment that "It must be nice to stand around and talk while everyone else is working."

Now, to rebut: First off, my wife is in MENSA and is much smarter than myself or most anyone I've met. I'm not saying this because I'm biased, but because she's fucking smart as hell. Second, I personally heard her ask repeatedly what she could do to help and being constantly rebuked if she even so much as touched anything. The few times she did assist the crabby old bats Cryptkeeper lookalikes ladies corrected her every move, no matter how trivial.

Anyway, rant over. My point is that, after finding out how she had been treated, I went ballistic. Being that the perpetrators were all elderly women, my usual response to making my wife cry (i.e. beating someone senseless) was not an option. So, I was left with impotent rage and passive-aggression. We haven't been to church since, as looking at their smug faces makes my blood boil. When one of the women from that day wave or says hello, I turn away and refuse to acknowledge them. My Love no longer trusts anyone in town, which is sad because we moved out of the city to get AWAY from this kind of bullshit. Since this series of events, several other incidents with residents of this town I once fell in love with have tested my patience and temper, two things I'm not known for.

This all goes back to being a parent. I'm trying to teach my boys love and patience, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, the whole package. But it's difficult when you just want to scream into the faces of the hypocrites and double-dealers that seem to infest every community and infect it with their cynicism. It's a kind of "Do as I say, not as I do" kind of situation. I want my kids to do what I've tried to do: be a better man than the examples I grew up with. If they can learn not only from my words and lessons, but from my mistakes, then I will be glad. My worst fear is that they will grow up to emulate me, as I am a serious collection of faults.

So far, my boys seem to understand that their dad is not perfect, not Superman, and maybe not the best example of leading a good life. Were I a better man, I would be more forgiving, less aggressive, a little bit less reactionary. My hope is that I can relay the ability to recognize my own faults and my desire to overcome them to my boys in a way that allows them to apply such a philosophy to themselves.

Also, I would love for them to realize that some people are just assholes, regardless of age, race, religion, creed or color.

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